Chicago’s Catch Co. on the go: From Series B funding to its first acquisition to the Bassmobile
Chicago-based Catch Co., the fishing brand, content and commerce platform, has had quite the year from Series B funding to its first acquisition to the Bassmobile.
Catch Co. fascinates me, though in some ways it is the antithesis of what makes me tick. I do what I do partly because the clutter and lingering odor of old-time bait shops holds my soul.
Catch Co. was founded in 2012 as a monthly fishing tackle subscription service called Mystery Tackle Box. Mystery Tackle Box is projected to sell its 8 millionth box by the end of the year and has evolved to offer its own e-commerce platform, Karl’s Bait & Tackle.
“It’s mind-blowing how many people [bought boxes],” founder Ross Gordon said.
Recur outdoors, founded in 2013 by Brian Runnals. includes the fly-fishing monthly subscription service Postfly, Wade fly-fishing rods, Pelican fly-fishing reels, and the Badfish saltwater brand.
“They have done very well in their own category,” Gordon said.
The Recur history notes that “Postfly was born in a Boston basement out of frustration of being an `urban angler’ and having nowhere to go for help, advice, or products.”
That sounds strikingly similar to Gordon starting Mystery Tackle Box in an Evanston garage with two Chicago investors. Catch Co. is currently headquartered on West Randolph, but staff are spread around the country, a process accelerated by the pandemic.
Gordon met Runnals at ICAST (the fishing industry’s big trade show) in 2015. The more Gordon learned about the company, the more he liked it.
“We thought it was a great fit to bring fly fishing into our ecosystem,” he said.
Catch Co., approaching 100 employees, held its first in-person meeting several weeks ago.
“I got to meet some of the people I had never seen before,” Gordon said. “Our culture is something I’m really proud of.
While Gordon and Catch Co. are on the cutting edge of modern online sales and social media interactions, he still believes that “brick and mortar will be important.”
He guesses that more than a quarter of fishing sales are now online, “though it is hard to find a data point.” (I think it’s higher than that.) He expects more than 50 percent of fishing sales to be online by 2030.
“We are very much a purpose-driven company: Our purpose is rescue people from the indoors,” Gordon said. “There are many other ways people are experiencing the outdoors.”
The natural follow-up was whether that meant expanding into other parts of the outdoors.
“We are so tied into fishing today, our focus is very much on the fishing market . . . Maybe down the road, more broadly,” Gordon said.
I’m fascinated by the hyperactive Gordon, who, even in a phone interview from his home last week, was pacing back and forth. Before Mystery Tackle Box and Catch Co., he started a tech company and a marketing company.
He seems to have found his spot.
“The way we built the company to evolve gave me an amazing creative way to interact with the sport,” Gordon said.
It’s been quite the year for Catch Co., which had $38 million Series B funding round led by True Ventures earlier this year.
And innovations keep coming.
“It is something really cool, we retrofitted an RV with a bass,” Gordon said. “It’s something I am really excited about.”
It’s a vehicle, literally, for taking on the road.
Another piece of growth that fits Gordon saying, “This is something I never would have envisioned in a million years where it would have grown to this.”